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The Peril of Leadership

 

Unfortunately, we see polls almost daily about this politician's popularity and that politician's popularity. If we elect people to become leaders, it's impossible to lead and remain popular. A leader has to make hard choices. Someone will be hurt by the decisions made. The more decisions made, the greater the pool of those hurt, and the more unpopular the leader is.

That's inevitable.

It's no secret that I disagree with President Obama on many issues, but in the areas where he wanted to push change, it was change he pushed and change he got. He telegraphed many of the changes that have come to pass when he was a candidate, such as his plans for energy costs to "necessarily skyrocket."

Did that get a lot of play in the media in his campaign? No. But guess what - you're seeing that philosophy played out today in higher gas prices. His refusal to issue permits for offshore drilling constricts our ability to rely on ourselves for oil and gas, therefore we're at the mercy of others. He told us that would be his plan, he's executing that plan, and his choice to do so will upset those who are affected by it and disagree with it.

That's the nature of leadership - you make hard choices.

Similarly, in Wisconsin we see Scott Walker carry out the plans that he communicated in his campaign for governor. Are they unpopular? Increasingly so. But to achieve a balanced budget, he's doing what he believes he needs to do.

A leader has to make hard choices, or they're simply not leading. It is what it is. If you don't like the leader, then critique the leader, galvanize people against the leader, and seek to change the leader. For the time being, that person is in the position of leadership.

The final questions in the evaluation of any leader are:

  1. Did the leader correctly assess the situation?
  2. Did the leader take the appropriate action?
  3. Did the leader succeed in implementing the appropriate action?
Polls are a really lousy way of conducting that evaluation. Skewed by samples, the way the question is worded, the answers allowed, and the choice of what to publish in the polling results leaves the results to be sketchy. Personally, I find it necessary to dig into a poll's methodology. That extra effort makes me disregard more and more polls.

Further, the outcome of the change sought by a leader is more important than the process.

Said another way, childbirth sucks, but the baby rocks.

What's important to understand is whether or not the change pursued has any historical or logical basis to recommend it as a course of action.

I know a lot of people who voted for Obama who are now shocked at the outcome he's producing. Gotta tell ya - he's pretty much doing what he said he would do, which is why I started talking about it way back then. To those folks, I've told them to pay attention next time.

Likewise, there are plenty of people in Wisconsin getting irritated with Scott Walker's process. But if the result is less debt for the state of Wisconsin and a balanced budget, I think most will have a hard time arguing with that outcome.

Some of our nation's most celebrated leaders were at times very unpopular. What spelled their ultimate recognition as great and good leaders were the long-term results of their leadership. Before election, what's important to know is what they intend to do and how they intend to do it. And then to understand that the process of change is often difficult and at times riddled with mistakes. Patience with that course is often hard for people who don't have the stomach for it.

 


by Brett Rogers, 3/5/2011 12:42:38 PM
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